There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
Now that it’s finally winter around here (68 degrees on Christmas definitely didn’t count) I’ve started receiving some questions about how we dress on the coldest days. Today, for example, was -2F when we woke up and, though we waited until later in the morning for it to warm up, it still only reached a balmy windchill of 5 degrees.
So what’s the deal? Are we battling frostbite over here? We’re not, though sometimes it may sound that way when you overhear me wrestling my two-year-old into a snowsuit. In fact, if it were up to him it seems he may prefer the frostbite to the snowsuit but I digress. . . .
In actuality, we’re quite warm. And when we’re not warm and comfortable outside, we go in. There’s no reason to push anyone beyond the point of comfort. It will only backfire into a child who refuses to go out at all the next time it gets cold.
Here’s my magic formula:
A good-quality base layer. The layer closest to the skin should be snug-fitting and soft, but don’t be tempted to make those cotton pajamas pull double-duty.. Cotton holds moisture so it will actually make you feel COLDER once you start sweating. Instead, look for something synthetic or wool, which will wick the moisture away from your skin and keep you feeling snug and cozy.
- A fleece or soft wool second layer. On top of the base layer, we pile on the fleece. Like wool, it is moisture-wicking but holds heat. On a cold day, we put fleece sweatpants and a fleece sweatshirt over the base layer. On a frigid day, we double up with both a fleece turtle neck and a fleece zip-up jacket on top.
- Insulating and wind-proof outerwear. If it’s snowing or wet, you will obviously need something that also repels water. We use snow pants on most days, but if the chances of getting wet are particularly high (like when we went tide pooling this week), I will use rubber rain pants instead. Keep in mind that they are not breathable, though, so they aren’t great for longer outings. On top I favor down jackets and on wet days I will layer a lightweight rain shell over them, but on the most frigid days it’s generally too cold for anything to be very wet since it’s all frozen.
- For hands, we use waterproof ski mittens for the coldest days, or fleece-lined wool mittens for everyday use. The wool ones are easier to get on and off and provide a little more dexterity. They don’t protect against the wind though, so they aren’t very suitable for skiing or sledding.
On feet we usually do wool or synthetic socks (again, cotton is a no-no) under snow boots. I like snow boots with removable wool liners, especially our LLBean ones that come with an extra set of liners. Look for boots with a full rubber foot so that you know they won’t get wet if they happen to land in a puddle of slush.
- On heads of course we use warm fleece or wool hats on most days as well. A snug-fitting wool hat can be extra cozy when topped off with a looser-fitting fleece hat too. If we are skiing or sledding, we use ski helmets, and on the coldest days or just on days when we’ll be out for extended periods in the snow, we wear goggles or sometimes sunglasses if suitable. The sun reflecting off the snow is surprisingly bright and can hurt your eyes quickly if they aren’t protected. Finally, we layer on a neck gator or use a balaclava underneath if it’s very cold out too.
- BACK-UP GEAR. Since we are outside often, we need back ups of everything in case something gets wet. I try to make our back-up gear suitable to replace what it needs to replace, but also to fill niche-type voids that are used less frequently. For example, both boys have down jackets as their primary winter coat because I believe they are the warmest and most cozy. For back-up coats though, they have traditional ski jackets because I think they still do a decent job of keeping warm on a cold day, and do a better job in very wet weather, like when there is a slushy snow or cold rain falling. For boots, we have LLBean snow boots, but use Bogs or Muckboots as backups. Again, they still do a good job of keeping little feet warm, and they do an even better job of keeping little feet dry so they can also double as rain boots or tide pooling gear.
If you’re reviewing your winter wardrobe and want a list you can tick off, here’s ours to get you started:
Synthetic or wool long underwear x 2 (more is preferable)
Fleece or wool tops to layer x 2 (we go for one turtleneck and one zip front so we can combine as needed)
Fleece or wool bottoms to layer x 2
Back-up snow pants
Wool or synthetic ski socks x 3
Warm winter boots
Bogs or Muckboots
Back up rain boots
Hats and Mittens:
Waterproof ski/snow mittens x 2
Lighter-weight fleece or wool mittens x 2 (more is preferable)
Warm winter hats x 2
Ski helmet (if you plan on skiing or hardcore sledding)
Goggles or sunglasses
Neck gator or balaclava